Imagine for a second a group of students out walking the streets of Portland with a local architect, finding geometry in buildings they have looked at every day without really seeing them. Hear a classroom buzz as three students, all struggling readers, comb through a scientific text with excitement because they are building a moving 3-D model of a living ocean with the help of a sculptor.
Watch, also, as Sarah exits the school building. She’s eight and wearing pants that clearly don’t fit; her soles separate from her shoes every time she takes a step. But she holds her head high—she laughs with two friends, a small pile of books in her hands. Mere months ago, before participating in an art and writing project, Sarah barely ever spoke in school. She kept her eyes down; other kids made fun of her clothes. That was before she explored who she is, before she enumerated her uniqueness in words and images, before her work hung in a local gallery. Now her teacher can’t scan the room without seeing her hand in the air.
All the students described above have learned to engage with school—they are improving their literacy and math skills, becoming critical thinkers, exploring and developing the competencies necessary to thrive in the 21st century, all while engaging with the artists in their community. These are the kinds of transformations Side x Side helps create every day.
Side x Side ignites academic excellence in education through comprehensive arts integration, bringing critical thinking, creativity, and innovation into the classroom through arts-based programs. Through community partnerships with the University of Southern Maine, the Portland Public School Department, and local artists, professionals, and colleges, we integrate science, technology, literacy, and the humanities with the arts to enhance school curricula.
Side x Side impacts schools and surrounding communities through four primary objectives:
• Strengthen student achievement through engaging hands-on projects.
• Facilitate teacher development and intern practicum.
• Build and stimulate cooperative and lasting partnerships among the arts, education, and professional communities.
• Present broad career paths to students through visiting experts.
At Side x Side we:
• Provide programming that integrates content with core subjects including language arts, science, math and social studies with the arts.
• Offer arts-based instruction tied to Maine Learning Results and Common Core standards.
• Cultivate 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and strengthened decision making.
• Join with strong, like-minded community partners including the University of Southern Maine.
• Offer credit-earning opportunities for university interns.
• Generate program sustainability with a “community of practice” in arts integration through guided arts experiences.
• Create broader learning environments by integrating strengths of teaching artists, visiting professionals and classroom teachers.
• Conduct data collection and analysis to enable project growth, evaluation and feedback.